(out of 5)
Yes, it’s the most damnably long movie in all cinema history, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you’ll have a great time. Elizabeth Taylor stars as the famed monarch of Egypt who first romanced Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison), which makes up the first two hours of the movie, and then Marc Anthony (Richard Burton), which is what the second two are concerned with. Of course, it’s more than likely that the enormous box office intake of the film had to do more with the real-life romance between Dick and Liz than anything going on onscreen; so much publicity was engendered during the tumultuous three and some-odd years of shooting, rewrites, recasts and the various array of directors, that as co-star Roddy McDowall pointed out, by the time the film came out no one was seeing “the forest for the trees”. To its credit, the film does a great job of going through known details of Cleopatra’s recorded life, from the time she entered her brother’s palace hidden in a rolled-up carpet until her death at the hands of a poisonous snake, with only a few flights of fancy in between (like that historically inaccurate plastic sponge floating in her bath). The sets are eye-popping in their beauty, recreating an almost mythical Egypt of ancient times that you find yourself easily getting lost in. The length, however, will be a real problem for those who aren’t kept fascinated by Taylor’s fiery personality (she herself vomited after she saw it the first time), especially considering that it’s basically a great two hours spread out over four. Along with Spartacus, however, it’s my favourite of the big junky epics being made during its time, so if that’s a good enough recommendation for you, indulge!
Twentieth Century Fox, MCL Films S.A., Walwa Films S.A.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Walter Wanger
Music by Alex North
Production Design by John DeCuir
Film Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Golden Globe Awards 1963